Muslim community organizers Linda Sarsour and Tarek El-Messidi, both Palestinian Americans, have raised nearly $130,000 so far to support their Jewish brothers and sisters in Missouri who this past week found the graves of their loved ones desecrated.
“Through this campaign, we hope to send a united message from the Jewish and Muslim communities that there is no place for this type of hate, desecration, and violence in America,” the fundraising page on the site LaunchingGood reads. “We pray that this restores a sense of security and peace to the Jewish-American community who has undoubtedly been shaken by this event.”
This is a great story with deep lessons for solidarity, and proves the lie to the well-worn trope that Muslims and Jews are eternal enemies. Muslims and Jews often unite and lift each other up when targeted: when a mosque in Victoria, Texas was burned down, Jewish neighbors opened their Synagogue to Muslims, handing them the keys. Groups such as Jewish Voices For Peace have long worked with Muslims to push for justice and fight bigotry and racism on all levels. If solidarity is to work a key element is reciprocity.
The trope that Muslims and Jews are eternal enemies was always a falsehood but it has been reinforced by the media for so long that it is treated as a truism. It is sufficient as way of example to highlight how this trope blinded mainstream media reporting on the mass support that Bernie Sanders received from Arabs and Muslims: recall the bizarre shock expressed by journalists and pundits when Bernie overwhelmingly won Dearborn, Michigan.
It is true that due to colonialism, the creation of Israel, the rise of Zionism and Baathism, virulent antisemtic tropes within certain modern “Islamist” political trends, the relationship between both communities ruptured and deteriorated. This can be seen played out in the comments section for this story at Times of Israel, where many of the commenters think it is a gimmick and pour scorn on the Muslim activists. There is quite a bit of sick Islamophobia as well:
Despite the profound manifestation of solidarity displayed by Sarsour and El-Messidi, you still have reports that cast shade on their efforts, as well as the broader Muslim and Arab American communities. The Christian Science Monitor, in their coverage quoted a CNN interview with Rick Santorum in which he diverted attention from the White supremacist threat to Jewish Americans by saying, without any evidence,
“If you look at the fact, the people who are responsible for a lot of this anti-Semitism that we’re seeing, I hate to say it, a lot of it is coming from the pro-Palestinian or Muslim communities,” former Republican Sen. Rick Santorum told CNN’s Chris Cuomo on Tuesday. “So let’s just lay out that fact.”
Santorum and his fellow Republicans have a vested interest in playing to the Evangelical Christian Zionist base that forms a significant voting bloc for the GOP. Israel is the golden calf that Santorum and company must pay homage to if they will win votes, and so they have gotten good at pandering. To acknowledge that much of the antisemitism in the US comes from conservative Whites sitting in pews on Sunday waiting for the Rapture means their political career in the GOP is over. To acknowledge terrorist White identity hate organizations such as the KKK have increased would diminish the apocalyptic focus on Islam and Muslims.
Demonizing and casting Islam and Muslims as the “common enemy” works all too well, that’s why Trump was elected. It’s easier to blame others than it is to take a hard, critical look at oneself and their own communities role in such propaganda. An all too pliant and weak mainstream media, more interested in “access” and wracked with biases it has helped to foster and perpetuate against Arabs and Muslims is ill placed and lacks the intellectual tools to challenge such dangerous and false tropes.